Friday, January 10, 2014


I thought I might pen a few moments from my past that remain truly memorable. Some are funny, some are sad, some just plain silly. Hop on the hay wagon and listen in as I tell some wild tales that are in fact true stories and not fables. (No names are used to protect the identity of the person(s) involved.)


This incident happened years ago, but was so hilarious Bob and I will never forget this day as it is burned in our memories.

We owned a playful young stallion that we purchased in hopes of gelding and making a nice lesson horse out of him. He was quite the character and very mischievous. Not bad, just a joker much like Opal. That is one thing I like about stallions; they are never boring and full of personality.

This one particular day our Gambler (that was his name) decided to have some fun with his handler who was leading him out to pasture for a pleasant day on the grass. Normally well behaved, he must have had a glint in his eye during that brief walk to the gate. The petite blond on the end of the lead shank strolled right along beside him. I think her shiny black dome pants were an attraction to him. Not sure what you call these things; Bob calls them dating pants,  but what happened next brought us to hysterics.

In an instant, the folly began. Gambler snatched the silken material between his teeth popping the fasteners on the pants. It left the embarrassed woman naked with just a skimpy thong barely covering the unmentionables. The harder she tried to retrieve her pants with one hand while hold onto the lead shank with the other, the more Gambler tossed the flimsy pants in the wind shaking them like a rag. I'm sure if a horse could laugh, he would be laughing tears. Bob and I were beside ourselves with laughter watching the stallion tease the woman for what seemed an eternity before he became bored with his antics. Eventually he dropped the pants, The owner quickly pulled them on the refastened several strategic domes. Not a word was spoken as she return from the pasture but she did have a scarlet face!


This is another classic from the past again involving a young stallion.

We had a two year old Saddlebred stallion in for harness training many moons ago. He wasn't a particularly rowdy lad, but his hormones were raging with spring in the air. I wouldn't say he was a terrible bright individual, but he was quite stylish in his jet black coat, prancing to the beat of his own drum. We were in the early stages of long lining the young stallion when a strange incident happened. I had an assistant at the time heading the horse with a shank for the first few lessons while I long lined from the side, my header walked slightly ahead and to the side of the horse holding a loose safety line. After a few laps of the arena, the stallion slowly started to change his posture to a more regal pose. His gait became a little more lively. "Oooh, he stepping out quite handsomely ." I thought to myself. Then I noticed the neck stiffen and the nostrils flare. He was quite intrigued by my handler's pony tail that was sashaying from side to side. The stallion's eyes widened with excitement and he focused intently on that pony tail. At the last moment before he was about to mount the unsuspecting woman, I pulled him up and yelled my cautious to her. Never again did she put her hair in a  pony tail when working around this teenager young stud. That was a close one.


I have a plastic life size horse head I bought to demonstrate bit pressure during one of my workshops. We were going to rig sensors to it so it would register how much pressure was being exerted by different bits. One day the head was resting on the bench in the main aisle. I don't remember how it came to be there. The thing always reminds me of the movie "The Godfather" with the gruesome beheaded horse in the bed. I guess it also has a negative effect on good old Captain.

Bob was playing around with it one day pretending it was a live horse and even vocalized whinnies. Well,,,, Captain perked right up in his stall and grew another foot in height as Bob approached his stall with head in hand. Captain growled his disapproval that this bodiless horse would dare enter the sanctuary of his space. He screamed and banged at the door his protest. To this day, if anyone carries that dummy horse head around, Captain becomes very agitated and bold. At 16.1, who wants to argue with this large Morgan!


Another funny bone moment was when a client of ours - let's call B, was working on his cantering on his mare LE. He set up for the big heave ho and put the mare into the canter phase. All was going well until the mare momentarily lost her footing slightly. The sudden drop of head and unbalanced rider found our Mr. B in a very awkward position to be riding the canter.  Round and around he went at the canter clinging to his horse's head while somehow balancing on her neck. Thank heavens it was a Morgan with strong muscles and not a horse to panic easily. I think he might have been trying to steer her by using the horse's ears but we were all laughing so hard, the tears coming down our faces skewed our view. I'm not sure how many laps of the arena he made but it was more than two. After an endless period of time, the mare broke to a trot and then to a walk with Mr. B still hanging on for dear life to her head and neck while wrapping his legs around her neck. LE finally stopped and lower her head to deposit Mr. B on his feet no less, his nerves rattled but all in one piece.


Once upon a horse show, we were having difficulty loading a junior horse in the trailer on our way home. We had practiced loading at home and even trailered her prior to the show. She was good being loaded to go to the show but when it was time to go home, she preferred to stay on the show grounds. After half an hour or longer, we were getting exasperated. By this time, we had a small crowd of helpful spectators sharing with us their wisdoms for loading. Now this is rather embarrassing since we don't normally have any problems loading our horses. We train them beforehand so this sort of thing doesn't happen. After being nice for so long, a fellow show competitor by the name of Mr. D suggested we give the mare one good crack of the whip as a last resort and see if that would persuade her bullish attitude to move forward. This is not what I like doing but it was getting dark and the parade of trailers were quickly dwindling from the show grounds. Sooooo,,,, I wound up real good and as I released the lash to its target, Mr. B (yes, the same Mr. B from the story about Neck Reining) walked into my path. The whip laid hard on it new target and as Mr. B yelled out in excruciating pain, the mare jumped into the trailer before the whip was recoiled. I'm sure she was thinking it would probably be aimed at her next. The horse was loaded, Mr. B had a stinging arm and I was red faced. He never let me forget it and warned passersby that I was deadly with a whip. That raised welt on his arm lasted for a week or more.


I had purchased a couple of Morgan mares to use in my lesson program a few years ago. Both horses had come from another lesson barn. They were used as hunters so I thought I might have some new talent to add to my lesson program. The mares were quite cranky when I got them so I gave them a year off to settle and have a break from the often monotonous routine of life as a lesson horse. Since my lessons are all private, I was hopeful these girls would fit in to a less aggressive lesson program.

I started the horses back slowly and had just finished working the larger mare on the line. I turned her loose at the end of her workout for a little play time. The arena was void of any other horses; just her and I filling the vast space. Above the 4' kickboard and about another foot higher, was a large mirror fixed to a thick sheet of plywood. It was a handy tool for riders to check their position while riding. Both the new mares had been the arena for the past year and were aware of their reflection on the wall. But this particular day the big black mare decided to challenge the image. She was cantering around the arena seemingly glad to be free of the lounge line. Suddenly she turned on her haunches and barrel towards the end of the arena. She was charging like a bullet when all of a sudden she sprang into the air clearing the kick board and crashing into the mirror some 5 or 6 feet above the ground. The impact shock the wall and the terrible smashing sound of glass tore the horse apart as she slid down to the ground in a heap. My emergency first aid care took over as I summoned for a veterinarian and worked on keeping pressure on the wound that was bigger than my fist. It was a gruesome injury that lay open the horse's chest. Ice packs and towels held tightly slowed the bleed. Horses have a very long clotting time so you can imagine how it seemed like an eternity before the veterinarian arrived to clean and suture the wound.

The horse spend three months on stall rest and then another couple of months hand walking before everything healed completely. A very faint scar is all that was left as evidence of such a terrible accident. The mare was cleared as sound again and later sold.

That mirror that hung in our arena for some many years, has never been replaced.


This had to be one of the strangest inquiries we had regarding a prospective client wanting to breed to our stallion. The problem was, the owner wanted to breed her nice GELDING. I said to her "you mean your mare." The response was dead serious with just a touch off annoyance detected in her voice.  "No. my lovely gelding." was her reply. I tried to explain to her that you can't possibly breed a gelding to a stallion. A mare yes, a gelding no. Trying to be delicate in my education of this horse owner, I had to restrain the urge to giggle loudly. I think the conversation ended in confusion or maybe embarrassment. Needless to say I never heard back from her again.


For decades we hosted many educational workshops here at the farm. One of the most popular workshops was one called The Confident Rider with Dr. H and myself. It was a huge success every time we offered it. Sold out for many years in fact. So many riders were looking for some skills and tools to help overcome their fears and develop new confidence in their riding careers. During one of these workshops when we opened the session up to questions from the floor, we received the oddest question. Dr. H was handling the psychology part of the program, while I dealt with the trainer and coaching side. The woman stood up, dressed in the high heels, a very fashionable dress complete with fancy hat and sumptuous jewelry. It was the sort of attire you don't often see or worn in a barn, but this doctor (yes, doctor) stood up and addressed the panel.

Everyone's eyes were trained on this stylish lady standing in a packed room of fellow equestrians giving careful thought to their upcoming questions they posed for Dr. H and I. She stood perfectly straight and clear of voice asking Dr. H and I the following question: "Why doesn't someone design a saddle with seatbelts and roll bars?" The classroom erupted into a roar of laughter but the doctor wasn't laughing, She was dead serious and never swayed. Her ego didn't seem bruised as she looked perplexed at the hysterical howls of laughter she encountered. Keeping a straight face, Dr. H tried to answer the participant's question with tact and diplomacy while suppressing those little giggles of humor in the back of her throat. Moving on.....


Well I'm not that good at recognizing celebrities but I've had a few come through the doors of the stable over the years. Our farm has been used on occasion for movie production. On one of those occasions, the farm was transformed into a giant movie set for the filming of an episode for a popular children's show that is still in production today. The two hosts of the show introduced themselves to me while the film crew was setting up their volumes of equipment and cameras. Since I don't have children, I was sadly unaware of who they were and what celebrities they are on television. It was a long day of shooting and I gained an marvelous insight into the magic of movie making. Do you recognize them?

We had another television show produced at the farm but no surprises with that one. However, I received a rather interesting call one day.

The male voice on the other end of the line inquired about taking some private riding lessons. He explained that he was house sitting for a few days and had seen our farm sign offering lessons. I was open for a lesson the following day and put him on the board. He told me his name and then there was a pause on the other end of the line. "Maybe you have heard of me?" was his delayed response. "Sorry no I don't think so." was my reply. Then another query came my way, "Maybe you have heard of my band? We are quite well known." Again my reply was "Sorry, no." After we hung up, I turned to my farm manager and asked her if she knew of this person. Her mouth dropped open in stunned disbelief. "What?" I asked. Apparently this person was a famous rock star, but since those days are past for me the famous rock band was not on my radar.

The next day my new student arrived for his lesson. So flabbergasted that I didn't know who he was, he decided to prove to me he really was a famous singer. So right then and there he delivered his own rendition of the Elvis Presley classic "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" Wow, he really could sing!

I put him up on Joy and he seemed mesmerized by the horse. He's a big animal lover and just seemed enthralled with his lesson although he moved rather stiffly when he dismounted. So here you go, recognize him?


We sold one of our most beautiful Morgan fillies to a client whose pockets were deep. Since I was very hesitant on parting with the lovely horse, the price tag was high. Reluctantly I made the sale. When you are in the business of breeding, you also have to sell your good ones.

A year or two after the sale, I got a call from the owner extolling such wonderful praise and jubilance over this smart filly. She couldn't get over how intelligent the mare was after an incident that happened sometime during the blackness of night. The peril that could have beset the horse was but a miracle that she was left unharmed. As the owner began to tell me what happened, I couldn't believe what I was hearing and shuttered to think was she was going to reveal next.

A very long extension ladder had been left in the yard where the horses were milling around during the evening. Knowing horses, they are accidents waiting to happen. Leaving such things as ladders and machinery in easy access of horses is not a wise decision. To make a long story short, the Morgan filly somehow got her head stuck between the rings of the ladder. For hours she walked around the crowded paddock with a huge necklace hanging from her neck. The ladder was fully extended. I can just imagine the panic as horses were being bumped and prodded by the extension ladder that had suddenly grown legs. Through it all the little Morgan kept her cool and stood quite still for hours on end before someone came to relieve her of her burden. That mill stone was finally removed and other than some strained neck muscles she escaped rather unscathed.


We have had many an interesting trip with Big Blue and our six horse van over the years. One memorable trip was on a return trip from Vermont. We had dropped of a horse and were turning around for the trip back to Canada that same day. A storm warning was in effect so we wanted to try and get ahead of it. Instead, we ran smack into it. Try crossing a small low bridge in a blinding snow storm with deep water on either side of you as the bridge ices from the spray of the lake churned up by the strong winds of the north. The choppy waves where like the grim reaper beckoning us to the deep. Chills still run down my spine when I think of that terrifying journey across Lake Champlain. The flakes of snow were so thick it was almost impossible to see what lay ahead. I don't think I breathed the entire crossing, or at least very little. I was so relieved when we reached the shore in New York State.


It happened on a steaming hot and still summer's night. It was a very long time ago and for some reason, I had to put three horses out in the paddock for the night. I never leave horses out at night as a rule so there must have been no room in the inn. I can't recall the reason, but it was a one time situation. I may have had extra horses in for training. It was a very temporary thing. Now back to the story.

The three horses were left happily grazing in the field backed up with hot wire to ensure their safe containment. All seemed well when I slipped away and fell heavily into sleep for the night. I left the window open to catch any passing breeze that might lift the heat of the day and carry it away. It was a peaceful slumber as I dreamt of galloping horses. It was so real that I actually woke. I listened carefully but everything was quiet. I went back to sleep and soon returned to my rest. The galloping horses entered my dream wave once again. So real! It brought me back to a conscious state. I decided I better check on the horses just in the event my vivid dream was more than that. 

I pulled on some day clothes and walked out the back door. To my surprise the three amigos greeted me in the driveway. I believe Captain was the ringleader followed by Gem and Joy. The horses followed me down to the stable as I led one of them by their halter. I secured them in another paddock until morning when I could check the fence line by the light of day. 

Later that morning I had a visitor to the farm. It was one of my neighbours up the road who asked me if I was missing any horses. "Humm... I don't think so." I replied to his question. "Let's go and check the field" I said as we walked to the paddock where the three horses were grazing. "No. They are all accounted for." I said. He gave me a strange look and then went on to tell me that he had an official from the municipality check his lawn for some large greenish brown deposits he found. The very proper official identified them. Horse manure was the conclusion of his investigation. 

I don't know how I ever kept a straight face. Then I shifted the blame to my good friend and neighbour who had a pair of Belgians in the field directly across the road from the lawn in question. I suggested that maybe they got out in the night and dined on his beautiful manicured greens. The old fellow shook his head in disbelief and left more confused than ever. 

I later shared my guilt with the farmer in question who always appreciated a good joke. He laughed so hard I thought he would pass out. Not his horses! The manure piles would be larger! He has since passed but I think he is still laughing as I write this post.
Now the moral of this story is that if your dream seems that life-like, then it probably isn't a dream. Those galloping hooves were in fact the threesome galloping on the pavement outside my window as they tore up the road and then came trotting home.